The Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act — also known as the CVAA — updated federal communications law in 2010 to provide greater access to certain technologies. The law requires, among other things, that providers of “advanced communications services” take steps to make them accessible to persons with disabilities. Since 2012, video games have been exempt from these compliance requirements. But that exemption is scheduled to end in 2018, with no plans for a new exemption to take its place.
The Federal Communications Commission is responsible for enforcing the CVAA. It notes that the term “advanced communication services” encompasses certain voice over internet protocol (VoIP) services, interoperable video conferencing services, and electronic messaging services such as text messaging, email, and other instant messaging services—including many of the in-game chat features available in many modern games.
The FCC can waive the CVAA’s compliance requirements for certain classes of technology. Video game software (as a class) has qualified for these waivers since 2012. But the current waiver is set to expire on December 31, 2018, and the FCC has indicated that it will not grant subsequent waivers for video game software as a class. Once the current waiver expires, manufacturers of video game software must either comply with the CVAA’s accessibility requirements or seek an individualized waiver for their particular game. Games released to the public prior to the expiration of the current waiver may be covered by the existing waiver even if those games continue to be sold after the waiver expires. But new game releases, including certain version updates or patches to games already grandfathered into the current waiver, may require a separate waiver from the FCC.
For further guidance on this topic, please contact Jennifer Kelly or Nicholas Plassaras — members of Fenwick’s Games Industry Group.